Protesters Shut Down Anaheim Council Meeting

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

Protesters at Tuesday night's Anaheim City Council meeting.

The Anaheim City Council meeting ended in chaos Tuesday night as over a hundred protesters shouted down members of the council majority after it became clear they would not reverse a decision to scrap a district elections map that had broad community support.

With chants of “shut it down” and “what do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” — the protesters crowded the council chambers podium and ultimately forced Mayor Tom Tait to abruptly end the meeting after his repeated calls for order went unheeded.

Following the adjournment, Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt, the two council members who support keeping the map, walked out of the council chambers. Meanwhile, council members Jordan Brandman, Kris Murray and Lucille Kring stayed for several moments in their seats as protesters berated them.


Protesters crowd the speaker's podium at Tuesday night's Anaheim City Council meeting.

Michelle Rubio / Voice of OC

Protesters crowd the speaker’s podium at Tuesday night’s Anaheim City Council meeting.

Tuesday’s pandemonium was the boiling over of anger in the community that had been building since Nov. 17, when the council majority, in a 3-2 vote, excluded the only Latino majority council district from electing a council representative in the 2016 general election. Instead, the council decided the district would have to wait until 2018 for representation on the council.

Choosing which districts would go up for election first in 2016, and which would go up for election in 2018, is part of the transition from at-large council elections to a by-district election system. The switch was the result of the city’s settling of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Southern California alleging that the at-large elections disenfranchised the city’s Latino communities and thus violated the state Voting Rights Act.

The transition to district elections had been going smoothly until the council majority’s controversial November decision, which members of the majority said was necessary so a council member could be elected from a district on the city’s west end that they said hasn’t had representation for years.

But there has also been speculation that the council majority’s real aim is to prevent the election in 2016 of Dr. Jose Moreno, who lives in the map’s Latino majority district. Moreno is president of the grassroots Latino group Los Amigos and a thorn in the side of the city’s business establishment. His candidacy in 2016 would give the mayor the best chance ever had to take over the council majority.

Much of the community’s ire since the November vote has been focused on Brandman because he’s the council’s only Democrat and has in the past supported district elections.

At last week’s regular council meeting, which came after the local Democratic party’s central committee condemned Brandman for his vote, he proposed what he said would be a fix. His proposal was to scrap the current map and draw a new one that has at least two Latino majority districts.

But instead of calming the situation, the move further enraged activists. Over 300 protesters showed up to Tuesday night’s council meeting, filling the chambers, spilling out into the lobby and onto the plaza outside City Hall.

Anaheim protest 3


Many carried signs and wore stickers that said “stop the power grab.” As speakers asked the council to reverse its decision, protesters in the crowd held up signs that said “shame on you Jordan Brandman,” “stop stalling” and “justice delayed is justice denied,” which was also a common refrain chanted by protesters that night.

The protesters said Brandman’s proposal further disenfranchised the city’s Latino residents, which make up 53 percent of the city, because it rejected a map that had been decided on after months of public hearings. A committee of five retired judges eventually recommended the final map, which was dubbed the “People’s Map” and had wide community support because it kept communities of interest and neighborhoods in the same districts.

Brandman listens to a speaker at Tuesday's meeting.

Nick Gerda / Voice of OC

Brandman listens to a speaker at Tuesday’s meeting.

Activists also said the decision delayed the adoption of clear district boundaries, giving potential candidates less time to organize their campaigns and an advantage to campaigns with major financing from powerful business interests like Disneyland.

Current and former elected officials also lent their support to the protesters and the current map. They included Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen and former state senators Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) and Joe Dunn (D-Anaheim) – the three of whom are running for the same congressional seat Brandman is seeking – as well as Anaheim Union High School District board member Al Jabbar.

“The action taken at the last Council meeting caused great concern for the people [of Anaheim], because the entire process was undermined, the spirit of the law was undermined, democracy was undermined,” Nguyen, raising his voice, told the council during public comments, to loud cheers from the audience.

“We can all see the Pinocchio show that is happening in the city of Anaheim,” he added, referring to the Disney-popularized puppet character who is known for telling lies. “Big, corporate interests are pulling strings behind the curtain, influencing our elected officials to act not in the interest of the people, but in the interest of greed.”

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen at Tuesday night's meeting.

Nick Gerda / Voice of OC

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Tuesday night Brandman defended the move, saying he heard what the protesters had to say about timing and promised the new map would be adopted by February and that the first hearing would occur on Jan. 12. He said although they don’t see “eye to eye” he expressed appreciation for their attendance.

Brandman’s defense didn’t assuage the protesters, who proceeded to drown out much of what Brandman had left to say.

Tait proposed sending the sequencing of the districts – or which would go up for election in 2016 and which in 2018 – back to the panel of judges for guidance. He said that was the only issue that the judges didn’t consider in their deliberations.

“We didn’t ask the judges to opine on the sequence. I wish we did. I wish I did. It would have saved a lot of headache,” Tait said.

But Brandman opposed Tait’s idea because, he said, it could potentially delay the adoption of a new map even longer. Brandman’s reasoning elicited sarcastic laughter from the crowd.

Tait said the judges could have their recommendation on the sequencing of the district elections ready by the Jan. 12 council meeting. With the judges’ recommendations, he said the council should be able to come to a consensus.

Tait’s proposal was shot down in another vote, with Tait and Vanderbilt casting the yes votes. Brandman, Murray and Councilwoman Lucille Kring voted no.

As things stand now, there will be two decisions on the council agenda Jan. 12. One will be Tait’s request to reconsider “the people’s map” and putting the Latino majority district up for election in 2016, as the activists want. The other will be Brandman’s request to have the first public hearing on choosing a new map.

After the council majority voted against Tait’s motion to ask the judges for advice on the election sequencing, the crowd massed at the podium and shut down the meeting.

After the meeting closed, protesters gathered outside City Hall and celebrated what they labeled a victory. Ada Briceño, executive director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, led the rally.

“Did we shut it down?” She asked. “Yes!” The crowd responded.

“Will we do it again?” She asked. “Yes!” The crowd said again.

In comments to a reporter, Briceño said the activists would now be “getting together and talking about how to escalate.”

Meanwhile, after Murray, Kring and most of the crowd had left the council chambers, Brandman remained in his seat, alone on an empty dais.

Voice of OC reporter Nick Gerda contributed reporting.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Mike Robbins

    Gee is this America? Fighting for voting rights in Anaheim 2015? The federal government should be looking into this shouldn’t they? Rights in America, that is what is so great about this. Actual human beings coming out to fight for right in America. I think there is not enough of this at all in America today but then I come from an era of civil rights and the Vietnam war.

  • Jasenn Zaejian

    This is nothing more than the epitome of racist white privilege by 3 white council members. Regardless of their defensive rhetoric, make no mistake. This is how Southern California racism is manifest

    • Philmore

      In case it escaped you, there were also 2 white council members who STOOD UP FOR THEIR non-racist principles. Once again, the world looks to be only filled with nails to the guy holding the “racist” hammer.

  • Paul Lucas

    Well Brandman has decided to drop out of the race for Loretta’s seat. Now we move into the phase where he backs Lou Correa for this seat. I think we all know better than to take heed of his recommendations from now on.

  • Lizet Lynch

    What’s all the havoc about?… All I’m saying they better be legal!!! If not better cry in the Rio Colorado! Lmao!!! Just kidding but seriously! Why are the protesters out there causing havoc?… What rights are being (if any)… Being violated?….

  • David Zenger

    “Brandman remained in his seat, alone on an empty dais”

    A fitting poltical epitaph.

    Now he has quit his stupid campaign for Congress and can return to being a full-time lackey for the Kleptocracy without any embarrassing contradictions or feeble-minded rationalizations.

    He will also carpetbag into a new district in 2016. It will take an oil tanker full o’ Kleptobucks to re-elect this poor simpleton.

  • Thomas Anthony Gordon

    I guess the CVRA doesn’t matter in Santa Ana.
    Time for Ward Specific elections in Santa Ana.

    • Paul Lucas

      Its been time for a long time.

  • Paul Lucas

    You should place an asterisk next to his name when ever you mention Lou Correa in this context. How many times has he endorsed Jordan as well as the other two Republicans on the dais over an outstanding Democrat? Twice. At least twice. Maybe more.

    • dc matthews

      interesting info.

  • LFOldTimer

    That’s democracy in action, folks. That’s people taking back their government. That’s the way America was designed to work back in the 1700’s. God bless all those concerned citizens who felt it was more important to make their voices heard than to stay home and watch the GOP debates or the Laker’s game. Without them the pols are the steamrollers and we’re the asphalt.

    • Philmore

      Horsefeathers. Shutting down a meeting is no more “Democracy in Action” than smashing storefront windows on Lincoln Ave was 2 years ago. “Democracy in action” produces RESULTS -So WHAT are the results of last nights chaos? NOTHING until at least next year, perhaps NOT EVEN THEN. (MORE lawsuits and Legal fees ?) Oh, and the “organizers” promised MORE shutdowns – just the thing for dialog, ideas and compromise toward resolution, right? Folks “for RESPONSIBLE Development” ? HA. Spoiled Children and sore WINNERS. What of the folks whose agenda Items were PUSHED ASIDE (and now suspended?) out of CONSIDERATION for District supporters, much less the “non District 3” voters, who are no longer ‘equal’ fellow residents but Poker Chips? The question arose last night “WHERE are people from District 2”? Perhaps, as I was, watching by web, wondering how the whole process would ever find the rails again, after splitting in TWO INCORRECT partisan directions last meeting. What hope of THAT when they are not even listening to Tait with the gavel anymore?

      ANY decision will delay SOMEONES vote, and despite the phony appeals for “UNITY” last night, the folks pushing “District 3” care not WHO it is, JUST NOT THEM! A ‘crowd’ of 300 or 400 (minus non residents and non-voters) is a roundoff error in a 350K City of 160K registered voters, not Majority Support for decision making, no matter HOW MANY of the Council suddenly adopt ‘polling a self-interested packed audience’ for THEIR basis. It was WRONG when clueless Eastman mentioned it for the ConvCtr Expansion and it is WRONG today and will be WRONG tomorrow. If only capitulation to THEIR view is acceptable, will CANDIDATES from this faction bring the same Mindset to Council Seats? Some improvement. “Democracy in Action” would follow its own established procedures (“Oh, but a special election COSTS TOO MUCH !” – Really?) or REMOVE political manipulation and DRAW the 2 “Unlucky Districts” by LOT and accept the IMPARTIAL consequences. We have NEITHER here, only the war between “Government (?)by cronyism” and “Government (?) by flash-mob”, with the rest of the City, concerned or not, marginalized into collateral damage. Happy New Year ? Fat Chance.

      • RyanCantor

        Easy there, fella.

        These folks have a right under the CVRA to hold an election for representation n-o-w. They’ve dealt with delay after delay after delay. Now they’re being asked to delay yet again because three Councilmembers, who happen to be white, either don’t understand the CVRA or who do understand it and intentionally want to gerrymand the district to mitigate the probable impact.

        Is disrupting a council meeting correct? Nope.

        Is delaying action on a few agenda items significantly less important than delaying compliance with STATE LAW for years? Damn right it is.

        I hope these folks shutdown every meeting until this gets resolved. They’re getting crapped on. No one should have to stand for that.

        That’s not a flashmob. That’s rightfully pissed off people.

        In any case, while a random lottery sounds fair, it’s probably not a legal remedy to the problem created by not complying with the CVRA. If folks have a problem with it, the correct path forward is to change the CVRA. It’s not to deprive District 3 Residents to what they were legally entitled to about a decade ago.

        • Cynthia Ward

          Ryan I was there last night in support of OCCORD and what they were trying to do in getting the decisions pushed into the right direction. And I had to leave early to deal with a family issue, but watched the shut down online (because on TV you can only get LAST WEEK’s meeting, something I had not understood until I was at Mom’s and she has cable. Way to include everyone, Anaheim! So if you depend on the public library for your internet and the library closes at 9 pm….) anyway I respect OCCORD’s right to shut down the meeting and God knows they have the right to be angry, VERY angry but I think it was not the wisest PR move when eventually they are likely to once again need the support of voters, possibly for a recall election of those 3 miscreants. Right now the messaging looks like this is all about troublemakers and rabble rousers and feeds the stereotypes that idiots were spewing yesterday over at the Colony group, so those not informed enough to find out what is really going on see that end of the one-sided discussion, see the news headlines that activists shut down the meeting, and suddenly 2 and 2 makes 384 for purposes of public relations. I think it hurt them with public sentiment, and I just wish there was a better way. Given a choice I will side with the protestors who are fighting for their right to participate, so next meeting I guess I put a sign on my back too. But I do wish there was another way.

        • Philmore

          “it’s (random lot) probably not a legal remedy”
          Wasn’t the “short term” assignment for expanded Council seats solved that way ? Why no “CVRA illegality ” there?
          ” It’s not to deprive District 3 Residents to what they were legally entitled to about a decade ago.”

          Which THEY are self-inflicting by shutting down meetings, FURTHER if future meetings shut down. And nice job hanging out their primary Council supporter Tait, who could have, as Greg Diamond points out at Orange Juice Blog, recessed or differently adjourned the meeting maybe having another minute to consider WITHOUT the wall of chaos supplied, having to consider public safety, etc, besides the protestors demands. But I guess yelling felt better than considering that. So what’s done is done (Or could a “Special Meeting” be called ?)
          What’s next, chanting, “Latino votes Matter” while disrupting perceived “opposition” gatherings? Yeah, that’s working out really well to improve credibility and solve the problems in Ferguson, right?

          • LFOldTimer

            Anaheim has always loved cheap labor and attracted many low-income residents. Now fast forward about 40 years. The low-income residents grew up and now want to be part of the political process. And Anaheim is resisting. The Anaheim power brokers made their own bed. Now go lie in it. I support the low-income residents. This is nothing more than sour grapes on part of the Anaheim power structure. In the end they’ll lose. The white council members are on the way out. And I laugh at them.

          • RyanCantor

            Philmore, the idea that these folks are self-inflicting another delay is ludicrous. Let’s stop now.

            The entire cause, exacerbation, and unfortunately remedy to this problem is the one and only Jordan Brandman.

            It’s his fault; he should fix it. Let’s not blame the victims of Jordan’s crime for standing up for themselves with style like some odd depiction of Victorian Britain.

            They’re normal people. They’re pissed, as they should be. Put your critique where it belongs– on the person responsible.

      • LFOldTimer

        If black people never engaged in civil disobedience they’d still be drinking from separate drinking fountains and would be prohibited from swimming in public pools. You need to go buy a book of Thomas Jefferson’s quotes. Are you a member of Generation Z, Phil? Just curious.

        • Philmore

          “go buy a book” ? You’re certainly not. ( and I’m NOT curious.)

      • kburgoyne

        Actually you’re wrong. It is democracy in action. It is the demos alternative to what money does in a democracy.

        Money is spent to project propaganda (when not being spent as bribes) in favor of what money wants in order to try and swing public opinion in favor of supporting what money wants. The counter challenge from the demos is using people power to draw attention to what they want in order to try and swing public opinion in favor of supporting what the demos wants.

        If the demos just sat quietly in their seats or submissively at home, they would be allowing the power brokers to engage in dark deeds in the shadows out of sight of the greater electorate. Instead the demos is drawing the spotlight into the shadows and exposing the dark deeds of the power brokers for the electorate to see.

        It is NOT the people at the meetings that actually scare the power brokers into abandoning their dark deeds. It is the spotlights the demos attracts to shine onto the power brokers, revealing their dark deeds to the electorate, that the power brokers fear.

        Or expressed another say, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” (Frederick Douglass)

  • RyanCantor

    “Meanwhile, after Murray, Kring and most of the crowd had left the council chambers, Brandman remained in his seat, alone on an empty dais.”

    Won’t be the last time.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Are we sure they did not reconvene the meeting like they did once before after Tait left? They still held a majority and Mayor Pro Tem and staff were left in the Chambers.

      • Philmore

        And the web video was shut off, too. Oh, WAIT, we could check the MINUTES! OOOOH, NO we CAN’T – they won’t be out for another FOUR MONTHS until they finish “sanitizing” them ! OOps! ($75 K approved last night (#14) – for those “special transcription skills” ??? lol.)

        • kburgoyne

          Not exactly “democracy”, eh?